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Acupuncture - Natural Relief for Pain and Inflammation

Staff | July 8, 2010 | Articles

So many people are frustrated with the fact that they have to rely on pain medication just to get through their day. Pain is a very serious symptom that should not be ignored and may not just go away. Pain must be shown respect and taken very seriously. But are there other options besides taking a pill? Yes, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine can be very effective for pain and inflammation. What causes pain and inflammation? Let’s start by gaining a basic understanding.

A wonderful definition of inflammation is from a book called The Immune System by Peter Parham. He determines inflammation as a general term for the local accumulation of fluid, plasma proteins (proteins found in the blood serving many purposes), and white blood cells that is initiated by physical injury, infection, or a local immune response. This is also known as an inflammatory response. Inflammation can be classified as either acute or chronic. Acute inflammation is the initial response of the body to a harmful stimuli. It is achieved by an increased movement of the plasma proteins and white blood cells from the blood into the injured tissues. Chronic inflammation, or prolonged inflammation, leads to a more progressive shift in the type of cells present at the site of inflammation and is characterized by the healing of the tissue from the inflammatory process.

Inflammation and Pain

What are the cardinal signs of inflammation? Acute inflammation is a short-term process, usually appearing within a few minutes or hours and ceasing upon the removal of the injurious stimulus. There are five cardinal signs; redness, increased heat, swelling, pain and loss of function. Redness and heat are due to increased blood flow at body core temperature to the inflamed site; swelling is caused by accumulation of fluid; pain is due to the release of chemicals that stimulate nerve endings and loss of function has multiple causes. The five signs appear when acute inflammation occurs on the body’s surface, whereas acute inflammation of internal organs may not result in the full set.

Review of Acupuncture

Sixteenth century Chinese doctors believed that illness was due to an imbalance of energy in the body. In acupuncture, disposable, stainless steel needles are used to stimulate the body’s 14 major meridians, or energy-carrying channels, to resist or overcome illnesses and conditions by correcting these imbalances. During a treatment the acupuncturist, the person who performs acupuncture, will swab each acupuncture point area with alcohol before tapping a hair-thin, metal needle into the site. The number of needles used during treatment can vary and are placed at various depths. They are placed under the skin in carefully determined points on the body. After the needles have been inserted, they stay in place for several minutes to an hour. During the treatment, acupuncture needles are twirled, energized electrically, or warmed to intensify the effect of the treatment.

Acupuncture and Pain

Acupuncture is thought to decrease pain by increasing the release of chemicals that block pain, called endorphins. Many acupuncture points are near nerves. When stimulated, these nerves cause a dull ache or feeling of fullness in the muscle. The stimulated muscle sends a message to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), causing the release of endorphins (morphine-like chemicals produced in our own bodies during times of pain or stress). Endorphins, along with other neurotransmitters, (body chemicals that modify nerve impulses) block the message of pain from being delivered up to the brain.

Some Conditions that Acupuncture can Treat

Acupuncture is very effective in treating many diseases and conditions. Acupuncture is especially effective at treating chronic pain, such as headaches; menstrual cramps; and low back, neck, or muscle pain. It can also be used to treat arthritis and facial pain. Acupuncture has also been successful in treating obesity and addictions such as nicotine or drugs. Acupuncture also can improve the functioning of the immune system (the body’s defense system against diseases).

In summary, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine are effective for a wide range of health concerns but is especially effective in treating pain and inflammation.

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